1914 was a good year for Mercedes. It had returned to Grand Prix racing with an outstanding racing car which was a technological marvel and swept the podium at the French Grand Prix.
Four-valve-per-cylinder, high-revving motors with overhead cam technology sound like contemporary stuff, but Mercedes had this all locked-down by 1914 thanks in-part to its aviation experience. Fair enough, when we say ‘high-revving’ we mean in this instance the heady heights of 3,250rpm, but bearing in mind that few cars at the time could get anywhere near 3,000rpm and you see how significant this was.
So obsessed were Mercedes by speed that they elected not to bother with front brakes, even though some competitors had the luxury of retardation at all four corners. The plan worked, and at Lyon the three works cars were sufficiently fast and reliable as to sweep the podium at French Grand Prix in Lyon. It was a remarkable event. The course measured 23.38 miles, and competitors were required to cover 20 laps. That’s a total distance of 467 miles!
As good as the Mercedes cars undoubtedly were, tyres could have played something of a part in the final outcome. Apparently, despite having to stop eight times for Dunlop tyres Georges Boillot led in his Peugeot with two laps to go. He dropped out of the race on the last lap and the Continental-shod Mercedes came home in a one-two-three.
The controversy doesn’t end there however, because one of the cars ended up in the UK at the outbreak of world war one, and…. well you’ll have to watch the clip to see what happened next!